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Day Two of the Ebor Festival, or the William Haggas Benefit as it will no doubt soon be renamed, didn’t throw up too many surprises. Well, at least not compared to yesterday. We didn’t see any 4/9 shots being turned over by a big-priced outsider at the very least.
Our selection in the first, Delizia, was just touched off on the line for third place, which would have given us a nice start to the day, but it wasn’t to be as Tasleet powered through after finding all sorts of trouble in-running to justify favouritism. In the second race, we got on the winner, Besharah. She won the Lowther in impressive fashion, earning a quote of around 14/1 for next year’s 1,000 Guineas. Is that value? Probably not, but then again it might be real value come 2016, it’s just hard to tell. The favourite, Lumiere, ran a decent race to finish second. Pleascach took down the Yorkshire Oaks in a great race, with Covert Love coming in second. It was a one-two for the Irish Classic winners, although we would rather have had the Irish Oaks winner take home the win.
1:55 Sky Bet First Race Special Stakes
A very open 20-runner (at the moment) handicap that is a tricky way to start the third day of the Ebor Festival meeting. It’s almost a case of sticking a pin in the field a few times and finding some value. There has been no draw bias, and the ground is drying out all the time, so we’ll get a fairly contested race. Of course, that also means it’s hard to find a line to take on the race. As it’s over 1 mile 4 furlongs, the front-runner advantage doesn’t matter too much, as long as they’re on the pace. So we’re looking for a horse that’s managed to beat the handicapper, so to speak.
Ransom Note looks very interesting, coming from the stable of Nigel Twiston-Davies, who focuses much more on the National Hunt horses than the flat. Ransom Note has had a very brief spell over hurdles, but has returned to the flat, narrowly missing out at Newmarket on his return. But what is very interesting is that he achieved a career high official rating of 117, having raced in the Champion Stakes in 2011. Age is a factor here, sure, but his return at Newmarket showed he hasn’t lost any of the zest for flat racing, and we want to get on Ransom Note each-way to start the day’s racing at York.
2:30 Lonsdale Cup
The second race of the day sees the stayers come out to play. The Lonsdale Cup is a Group 2 race contested over 2 miles and the field looks pretty stacked. A few runners renew their rivalry from the Ascot Gold Cup, with the winner of that race, Trip To Paris, looking like a solid option.
However, preference here is for Big Orange, who won his last two starts, both in Group 2 company. Although it’s not the same calibre as the Ascot Gold Cup, he holds Trip To Paris and Quest For More on last time out at Goodwood, when he won the Goodwood Cup. Yes, they could have thrown a blanket over the front three, but it was an impressive win from Big Orange. Jamie Spencer will give him a patient ride, and it just looks like this four year-old is improving every race.
3:05 City of York Stakes
A big field for the 2015 renewal of the City of York stakes, and like the previous race, the field is incredibly stacked. The City of York Stakes is a Listed race over 7 furlongs, and it’s going to be run at a good gallop, so expect a bit of a muddling race.
The big question here is on Richard Pankhurst. He’s having his first start as a three year-old, which is slightly off-putting given how far into the season we are. On official weights, he’s several pounds ahead of the field, and he looks the obvious selection here. But the fact he’s having his first run of the season just puts a bit of a damper on things, and we’ll be looking elsewhere.
So Beloved looks handy, and has won over course and distance recently. He won over the mile at Goodwood last time out, beating Belgian Bill, who went on to finish midfield in the Arlington Million recently. The trends tend to favour four and five years olds, so the five year-old So Beloved fits that bill nicely, and is another tick in the box in comparison to Richard Pankhurst. However, tread carefully here and back each-way, as Godolphin might have just Richard Pankhurst prepped for this race, and if he’s match fit, he’ll run that field ragged.
3:40 Nunthorpe Stakes
The feature race of the day, and the Ebor Festival’s big sprint race. It’s such a well-respected race, that it’s no surprise the quality of the field that’s come together for this year’s Nunthorpe.
Look, let’s get right to the point, this is all about Acapulco. The amazing filly takes on older horse for the first time, but given her size, that will not be a problem, as she is an absolute machine. Yes, her price is short enough given the size of the field, but she gets almost two stone in allowances for her age and sex over all the field, so she has the build of the rest of the field, but a fifth less weight. Acapulco will go on to bigger and better things, and given the form of the Queen Mary is working out nicely this week, with Besharah finishing third in that race winning the Lowther and Easton Angel, who finished second, finishing third in the same race. If you’re not wanting to get involved at such a short price, Sole Power will look to bounce back into form, and Move In Time likes this course, and could go well at a double-figure price. But for me, it’s all about going loco with Acapulco.
4:20 British Stallion Studs EBF Convivial Maiden Stakes
This is not a race to go in hard with. A 19-runner, 7 furlong maiden can be scary reading for punters, and this is definitely one of the scariest races on paper. Forget your handicap races, a race with so many unknown quantities is not for messing about with large bets.
The first thing to note is that it’s always worth following the market in races like this. If there is a springer a few minutes before the off, you can almost be 100% sure it’s going to run a big race. It might not win, but it should go close. But since we don’t have the benefit of watching the betting, we’re going to try and make some sense of this race.
Palmetto Dunes’ previous runs have worked out well on form, but he’s no done enough to suggest he’s head and shoulders above a field this size. Very Talented wasn’t too fancied in his first race, and that third doesn’t look that great on paper. However, the form of Taqwaa looks solid on a line through Miniaturist and Tasleet, and is coming from a quality stable. Again, not one to go heavy on.
4:55 Nationwide Accident Repair Services Stakes
Last race of the day, and we have another 20-runner handicap, this time over the mile for three year-olds. Rifle Range is the selection here. He’s looked good in his two runs on turf, winning them both. The form of his first win looks very solid, with Memorial Day going on to pick up a couple of races since then. He’s an unexposed type, which we like in these kinds of races, and he’ll be primed for this. Talyani will get a lot of support with the William Haggas factor, but we’re looking to take it on. There are a couple of other unexposed sorts in the race and, again, there might be a late gamble on one of them, trying to stage a coup, but we like Rifle Range, and he should give us a big run for our money.
So that’s Day Three of the York Ebor Festival in the books, and it’s all about Acapulco. We could be seeing a superstar in the making, or we might just be seeing a bubble burst in spectacular fashion. Of course, let’s hope for the former, as not only will it be great to see a young filly dominante the older horses, we’d also love a winner.